And which teams are likely to be looking at them first?
OTA's are winding up and minicamps beginning for most NFL teams. Training camps will be up next. The 2013 NFL (and fantasy football) season is approaching. And that will mean injuries. So who is left from the 2013 free agent running backs crop of value? There are a few who are likely to be on a short list for many teams as teams incur injuries at the position. The following is a list of teams with RB needs and then the free agent RB's who are still available.
Arizona Cardinals: It all depends on whether Rashard Mendenhall is really able to recapture his prior abilities before the torn ACL injury that he was still recovering from throughout the 2012 season. If he does, the Cardinals are set with him. If he still has troubles, they would be in the market for another RB as Ryan Williams hasn't been the same since he missed his rookie season with a knee injury and the other RB's for the Cardinals (William Powell, and rookies Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor) aren't superior talents.
Dallas Cowboys: DeMarco Murray has flashed brilliance when healthy, but has been unable to stay healthy throughout a season yet. Rookie Joseph Randle is his backup and after him there is a dearth of mediocrity in Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar. If Murray (or Randle for that matter) gets injured, the Cowboys will be calling RB's in. It's likely they might do so even before training camp.
Indianapolis Colts: Vick Ballard was serviceable in 2012, but nothing special. Donald Brown is in a contract year and has never lived up to potential (or stayed healthy). Delone Carter has been disappointing. Rookie Kerwynn Williams simply isn't built to stand up as more than a complimentary RB. The Colts could be the first team to go looking at available free agent RB's.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew is recovering from surgery to repair the Lisfranc foot injury that ended his 2012 season and while reports say he should be okay by training camp, I'm not so sure. They signed Justin Forsett to be his new backup as insurance, but Forsett is barely a good RB anymore. While there is talk of rookie Denard Robinson getting plays, he isn't going to hold up with more than a complimentary role. Jordan Todman and Jonathan Grimes have bounced around teams in their brief careers and don't look like viable answers.
San Diego Chargers: Ryan Mathews has yet to live up to expectations and has also shown a penchant for injury. The Chargers added former Patriot Danny Woodhead to be his top backup, but Woodhead is limited in how much of a load he can realistically handle. Ronnie Brown was re-signed but he is a shell of the RB he was before knee injuries sapped him of his speed. I have a hard time believing San Diego would really feel good about Edwin Baker or Fozzy Whitaker if anything were to happen to Mathews.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: While Doug Martin was excellent as a rookie, there is little good depth behind him. Former Bengals RB/FB Brian Leonard is okay, but not great. Rookie Mike James is more of a plodding power runner while second year RB Michael Smith is a scatback type. Tampa is one of the first teams I wouldn't be surprised to look at what remains from the free agent RB's.
Available Running Backs
Ahmad Bradshaw (Turned 27 years old in March): Bradshaw has been cleared medically cleared after having yet another surgery on his troublesome feet. Earlier in the off-season there was some speculation that his career could be over as he has continually battled foot injuries. While no signing appears imminent for him, he's going to be one of the first RB's called in for a tryout once injuries start happening.
Chris "Beanie" Wells (Turns 25 years old in August): Wells is still young and if not for injuries, he had a promising career going. But his knee issues could be chronic and he also is coming off a bad case of turf toe. It's unsure if he can stay healthy but he has talent and has shown ability when healthy.
Brandon Jacobs (Turns 31 years old in July): A lost 2012 season with the 49ers where Jacobs barely was active at all on game days, I expected Jacobs to garner some interest this off-season, but no team has even brought him in. Perhaps he is at the end of his career after so many opportunities to show that his huge size would translate into superior power. I still think someone will bring him in at some point.
Cedric Benson (Turns 31 years old in December): Recovery from surgery to repair the 2012 Lisfranc foot injury has prevented Benson from being able to make any trips around during free agency. It's likely the injury will end his career but that's not certain. If he can show that he is recovered from it, he could be signed to provide depth somewhere as he wasn't looking bad before the injury.
Michael Turner (Turned 31 years old in February): Turner turned in his worst season as a Falcon in 2012 as he played thru a nagging groin injury (and he has a history of those). Maybe it's that, or maybe he's simply got little left in the tank that has led to him having had no interest from any teams since his release from Atlanta in March. But some team that needs a power RB is sure to kick the tires on him as he hasn't scored fewer than 10 rushing TD's in any of his 5 seasons while with the Falcons.
Peyton Hillis (Turned 27 years old in January): I only mention Hillis because he did turn in one magical season back in 2010 for Cleveland. But since then, he has looked very much like a converted FB who doesn't have the speed or elusiveness necessary to be a regular contributor.